Evolution of a N Gauge - 3' x 5' Layout for the absolute beginner


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q) I just finished stage 1 & 2. At least that is what i am calling them. I ran two trains simultaneously and used the side passing with great success. I have a question for you. When should I begin to lay down my roadbed?

A)You can lay down your road bed whenever you think you are ready, but you need to be sure that the track is positioned where you finally want it to be. Track is easy to lift, but roadbed is permanent. If you are following my original plan, the key track is the Interchange in the upper left corner. If you place the main loop and the interchange track in such a way that you have equal space between the top and bottom edges of the foam, and the loop is centerd, the rest will fit. Once you have decided on the correct position for the track, you can use a felt-tip (magic) marker to draw the center line of the track, if you are going to use cork road bed, or to trace the track outline if you are going to use AMI Instant road bed. Lift the track and lay your roadbed. I still recommend that you pin the track down, rather than ballast it, until you have finished the rest of the track, in case you need to make any minor adjustments.

Q) When you are describing the first loop you said to use 11" radius curved pieces of set track. When the first passing siding is placed you said to use 19" radius set track. Since the passing siding is inside of the original loop, I think you may have meant a smaller radius track.

A) The two 19" radius curves are on the diverging route of the turnouts, to swing the track parallel with the main. The curve consisting of 3 pieces of 9 3/4" radius is then formed from the lower of the two, and the Straight pieces from the upper.

Q) I just read and printed out your guide for beginning model railroaders. I'm very excited to get started. However, I was guided to HO scale trains by some friends and was wondering if this layout will work the same with those trains. Will the layout have to be bigger? 4' x 8' maybe? Also, will the track measurements be the same? Thank you for your tremendous help.

A) N Scale is 1:160 while HO Scale is 1:87.1, nearly twice the size, so 6'x10' would be a better estimate. You would also have to double the radii of the curves. In reality it would depend on the track geometry that you use, I haven't worked with HO so I can't give you a definitive answer, but if you have room for a 6'x10' table, you should consider a layout that goes around the walls rather.

Q) You did mention DCC. Because I am just getting started again in the hobby, I would like to know more about it. I was looking at MRC's DCC Command 2000 W/30 VA Power Pack & 1 loco. I was interested in your opinion about this DCC. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

A) I am afraid that I can be of little assistance to you with DCC as I have never tried it myself, but you may get some good answers from http://onelist.com search for DCC and join one the lists. Hope that helps.

Q) I will be very interested if you continue on with any more articles especially info on operations or coupling & uncoupling N scale cars to spot them.

A) I find that the best tool for n-scale micro-trains couplers is a round wooden toothpick, push it between the knuckles and they part smoothly every time. Much more reliable than magnets. If you use rapido couplers, then a short length of wire, bent and flattened at the end is useful to lift one coupler up over the other. Both methods can be used with a piece of dowel or an old pen body as a handle.

Q) In purchasing my first locomotive, (50's - 60's era), what are some things I should consider? Do you have any recommendations regarding power, brand, etc?

A) By the 60's steam was largely a thing of the past, but that is not so bad as in N Scale Diesel Locomotives tend to be more reliable than steam <G>. Avoid the large, modern, locomotives and concentrate on "First generation diesels" i.e. the GP7, E8 etc. The N-Scale Mail list at http://onelist.com would be a better place to ask this question. You can't go wrong with Kato or Atlas but other brands are cheaper.

Q) Can you recommend a manufacture of high quality locomotives. I haven't decided whether I'm going with steam or diesel. I've been through the Walthers catalog and the only name I can find that seems worth looking at is Kato. I've had experience with Atherns, Bachmann and Life Like HO scale.

A) You seem to be on the right track (pun intended) in that Kato are generally considered to make the best N scale locomotives, ATLAS are also excellent, and usually based on a Kato mechanism. I have had no personal experience with Bachmann, but the general comments that I get from others are that the running characteristics are not good. If you are good at mechanical things, you may be able to improve them though. I am still trying to get hold of a Bachmann doodelbug for my own layout. Lifelike seem to be improving all the time, and I have two lifelike SD7's that run well. I believe that their older stuff may not be so good (again no first hand knowledge, only hear say). Arnold (in Austria I believe) also make some good Locomotives, but the wheel flanges are too deep for some US model track.

The best thing to do is buy your locomotives from a dealer, who will allow you to test run them in the shop, and who can replace or return then for you if you get a dud. This may work out more expensive than mail order, but Locomotives are a major investment, and it is worth paying a premium for the support of a knowledgeable dealer.

Q) Where can I find the "rules" I have heard about regarding weighting of the rolling stock which, as I understand so far, keeps the cars from being too heavy or too light.

A) The most important consideration is that all cars are a consistent weight, but the rules you refer to are from the NMRA, see: http://www.nmra.org ,for full details, but in short: NMRA RP 20.1 states: 0.5 ounce + 0.15 ounce per inch, thus an N scale car of 3" = 0.5+(3*0.15)=0.95 ounce

Q) I began by buying secondhand track and turnouts. They are all Fleischmann. As I need to buy more turnouts and other track and control items, I would like to switch from Fleischmann to Atlas as the former is very expensive. Is there any incompatibility between the above mentioned two brands of switches? Can I use Atlas switch control machines to control Fleischmann turnouts? Please help!

A) I have had no experience with Fleischmann Track, but the two brands should work together. The Atlas switch control machines only fit Atlas Turnouts so I don't think they will work with Fleischmann. The best thing is to buy some Atlas track and compare the two. Personally I think that PECO make the best switches / Turnouts, and as you are closer to England than America you may find them to be cheaper than Atlas.

Q) I learned the two weak links to model railroading -- couplers and wheels. I have fairly routine derailments, but my cars may truly be the problem. I started with the Walthers "TrainLine" cars that came with the starter set I purchased. I am working with a guy on solving this problem -- weights and better quality wheels. With the KaDee couplers my chosen coupler, I guess I need to standardize my couplers, too. The Walthers cars and engine come with "look alike couplers", but they're not the KaDee. What do you suggest? Should I simply begin building car kits and replace wheels and couplers during construction? Any advice would be appreciated.

A) I have little personal experience with HO equipment, but your problem is common to all scales. The first thing you should do is purchase an NMRA Standards gauge from your local dealer and check the gauge of all your wheels and your track. You may find that a small adjustment to your existing wheels and track may save you a lot of time and expense replacing all your wheels. If you mainly derail on turnouts, then check the flange width and file down the point rails. As for the couplers, I believe that the Walthers coupler is compatible with the KD's so you should be ok for now. You may have a problem with magnetic un-coupling, but you can address that issue when you need to.



I will be posting at least one update per month to the web site, whilst regular discussions and updates will be posted to the n_tutorial mailing list. Please join the list, the details are on the Index page.

The main focus, at this time, is on track planning and operations. The details of construction and scenery will be added later as the project expands. Like wise, the only graphics at this stage are GIF images of the track plan. I will be adding photographs, a full glossary and " hints and tips" as the project grows.

I retain the copyright on this work and reserve the sole right to publish the material, text and track plan. It is a work in progress and will be updated often.


Monday, January 3, 2000



Copyright © 1999-2000 C. A. Roper

No part of this text or plan may be reproduced, in part or whole, other than as an aid to building a layout for your personal use, without the express permission of the author. For information or to give feed back contact caroper@iafrica.com.